In many ways, Pat Sheridan embodies exactly what it means to be a guitarist on the front line of extreme metal in 2020. Having been a prominent figure in Fit For An Autopsy's sometimes slow, but always sure ascension: he's one of the many musicians in alternative music that have had to scratch and claw for every segment of success they could dig their nails in to for over a decade, but in essence: there's really no one else like him.
His presence is offset by his sweetheart demeanour, before he begins the discussion in the dimly lit, cold merch room at Birmingham's O2 Institute, he politely asks the bands merch guy to rearrange certain elements of the layout - he's got an eye for detail. He candidly admits this is his fifth interview of the day, unlike some he seems to welcome the schedule, it's almost like he's just glad people care enough to know what he has to say.
Sheridan has mentioned in interviews prior that his concept of success is somewhat different to what you'd expect. Rather than viewing success as a measure of how healthy his bank balance looks - he already considers the band successful. You can't really argue with him: Fit For An Autopsy are in a position where they can influence the newcomers, and can take their pick of what tours they want to go on, as well as who to take with them - something every single band you love has fought for at some point. He's not obnoxious enough to think his way of thinking is necessarily right for everyone else though.
"Everybody's got different goals, everybody wants different things from their music and their life. What makes me happy and feel like I'm successful is probably very different to what other people believe. I don't wanna be pompous and say: MY WAY IS THE BEST WAY! But I think that if you can make your expectations more reasonable, you can easily feel like you're more successful. We just wanna be the best version of whatever we can be and more forward from there."
Perhaps the dynamic for Fit For An Autopsy can be astray from the norm because, well, they're astray from the norm. Producer/member Will Putney is one of the driving forces for the band when it comes to writing/producing, but Putney doesn't tour due to production commitments for other outfits. An unusual set up? Sure, but FFAA somehow thrive in this dynamic, though Sheridan admits he sometimes wishes he had more trust in Putney's ideas earlier on their careers.
He chimes in with "I wasn't comfortable with it six months ago" when discussing whether he would have been comfortable writing a track like 'Napalm Dreams' six years ago. He goes further on the point: "Will and I have been friends for SO long, and I understand the creative process that he does. It's just, trusting Will can be difficult". Pat's relationship with their producer may seem strained here, but the truth is: they're able to have these disagreements because of the strength of the bond they've built, as opposed to sitting on the edge of a disaster.
The two are the final remaining original members of the band. From Fit For An Autopsy being a mere side project for some kids from New Jersey, to releasing one of the standout extreme metal releases of 2019: the two have seen it all. But even with that said, if one of them departed, that wouldn't spell the end for the band. "I would just continue writing [if Will ever left], and if it worked it worked, and if it didn't, it didn't. We all have creative input, so at this point he's kind of trained us in the idea of what we sound like, and now we're moving forward. It's one of those questions where we'll only really know what would happen... if it happens, and we don't want it to happen."
You start to get a real idea for what makes Fit For An Autopsy tick when the discussion becomes more centred around Pat himself though. And he's never bold enough to actually say it, but it's abundantly clear that outside of the studio - Sheridan is the cog that keeps the wheels turning. "I'm the tour manager, I do the logistics and the travel, the gear. We decide who we take on tour together - and Will handles all the business in the background that I don't have hands on."
This wasn't necessarily the plan though, Pat never really envisaged he'd be tour managing his own band in his 40's, but the way he describes the situation you imagine there was only one man perfect for the mantle. "We're self-managed in a way where it works really well for us, but I never saw myself doing that until I HAD to."
New record The Sea Of Tragic Beasts was seemingly the bands culmination, the album where their momentum has been put into a slingshot. While Fit For An Autopsy were a band that even before this latest release had experienced a noteworthy career, it was their latest throat punch of extreme, death laced metal that launched to the pedestal upon which they currently sit.
But Pat has already been doing this for two decades, and you do begin to wonder if his lust in the band has ever wavered (spoiler: it hasn't) but his response to what's kept him motivated over the years is classically inspiring. "Nobody tells me no. I do what I want, that's why the band will forever move until we decide it's time for it to stop. I'm not gonna stop because someone on the internet doesn't like it, or because a label wants us to do something we don't wanna do... I'm gonna when I'm done, and that's it."
In a moment you can see resonates with him, he continues to discuss his motivations, and even manages to include how his son's aspirations tie into all this. "If I decide I'm gonna do something, I'm gonna do it. And I think that's a big problem with people: they experience failure and then they run. My son says he wants to be a scientist, and one of the things I say to him all the time is that a scientist's whole career is based on failure. If a scientist quit every time they fail, they would never have any success. We try to keep that in mind and work from the mindset of: every stepping block, every stone laid in the pavement (failure or success) is another step towards getting what you want. You have to learn from your mistakes, grow from your failures. There's no quitting, quitting is not an option."
As the dust settled around The Sea Of Tragic Beasts, you knew that this was a potential make or break moment for Fit For An Autopsy. As it turned out - it made them, and listening to Pat talk, you understand why they've stood the test of time. Battle hardened, experienced, talented, and outright refuse to let a mere failure get in their way. Time may catch up with us all, but as we speak: there's never been a better time to be a fan of Fit For An Autopsy.